Friday, September 30, 2005

WHO: Impossible to estimate pandemic deaths

Might be a good time to go GREEN!

GENEVA - The U.N. health agency on Friday said it was impossible to estimate how many people would die from a new influenza pandemic, adding that it has warned countries to prepare for a death toll of up to 7.4 million.

ìWe think that this is the most reasoned position,î said World Health Organization spokesman Dick Thompson, warning that ìyou could pick almost any number.î

On Thursday, Dr. David Nabarro ó the new U.N. coordinator for avian and human influenza ó had warned that the ìrange of deaths could be anything between 5 and 150 millionî from a new pandemic.

ìOne of those numbers will turn out to be right,î Thompson told reporters. ìWeíre not going to know how lethal the next pandemic is going to be until the pandemic begins.î

Several scientists have made predictions on how many people could die in a flu pandemic, and estimates have ranged from less than 2 million to more than 100 million.

The number of deaths will depend largely on how contagious and lethal the virus is ó two factors that cannot be known until the pandemic strain emerges.

However, even though several estimates could be plausible, WHO ìcanít be dragged into further scaremongering,î Thompson told reporters.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has swept through poultry populations in large swathes of Asia since 2003, jumping to humans and killing at least 65 people ó more than 40 of them in Vietnam ó and resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of birds.

Most human cases have been linked to contact with sick birds. But WHO has warned that the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans ó possibly triggering a global pandemic that could kill millions.

Halt disease before epidemic
Southeast Asiaís agriculture ministers endorsed a regional plan Friday to combat bird flu and pledged to cooperate with international agencies in a move they hope will win enough aid to halt the disease before it becomes a catastrophic epidemic.

The ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, meeting in Tagaytay, Philippines, said in a statement that the flu requires ìan all-out coordinated regional effort.î

The meeting in the Philippines ended with the ASEAN ministersí joint statement endorsing a regional plan for control and eradication of bird flu over three years from 2006 and directing a new task force to urgently formulate ìa detailed action plan for implementation and proceed to identify potential sources of funding.î

The plan covers eight strategic areas, including a disease surveillance and alert system, vaccination, improving diagnostic capability and establishing disease-free zones.

The regional framework dovetails with a three-year plan drafted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, and the WHO in May, to be presented to international donors in December for implementation next year.

ìWhat we hope to do at the (regional) task force level is to supplement what is going on, what is being done by each individual country and to work with FAO, OIE and WHO,î Singaporeís Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan told a news conference.

ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Wilfrido Villacorta said given the gravity of the problem ìwe are confident that we shall continue to have the support of our dialogue partners.î

The ASEAN animal health trust fund formally established at the meeting ìgives the signal to potential donors that ASEAN member countries are serious about eradicating the avian flu as well as other diseases that are facing the region,î he added. Pledges of $2 million have been made for the fund, which is separate from a regional one for bird flu that ASEAN hopes to have, officials said.

ASEAN comprises Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

ìItís important that we have the political commitment of the region so we can effectively invite the donors to back the program (on bird flu),î said Subhash Mozaria, FAO chief technical adviser.

Posted by loni on 09/30 at 01:02 PM
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There’s a new $10 bill coming out.  Here’s a picture of it.


Posted by SPN on 09/30 at 12:41 PM
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Arctic ice melting faster as temperatures climb

‘Best answer is warming,’ say researchers, who predict trend to continue

New satellite observations show that sea ice in the Arctic is melting faster while air temperatures in the region are rising sharply, scientists say.

Since 2002, satellite data have revealed unusually early springtime melting in areas north of Siberia and Alaska. Now the melting trend has spread throughout the Arctic, according to a national collaboration of scientists.

The latest observations through September show that melting in 2005 began a record 17 days earlier than usual.

The observations showed 2.06 million square miles of sea ice as late as Sept. 19. Thatís the lowest measurement of Arctic sea ice cover ever recorded, the researchers said. Itís also 20 percent less than the average of end-of-summer ice pack cover measurements recorded since 1978.

At the same time, average air temperatures across most of the Arctic region from January to August 2005 were as much as 5.4 degrees warmer than average temperature over the last 50 years, said the team of researchers from two universities and NASA.

ìThe melting and retreat trends are accelerating,î Ted Scambos, of the University of Colorado at Boulderís National Snow and Ice Data Center, said in a statement released by the university. The results have not yet been published in a scientific journal.

ìThe one common thread,î Scambos said, ìis that Arctic temperatures over the ice, ocean and surrounding land have increased in recent decades.î

‘Best answer is warming’
The scientists stopped short of directly blaming the melting trend on global warming but said they have few other explanations at this point.

During the 1990s, a cyclical atmospheric circulation pattern called the Arctic Oscillation was believed to have been pushing sea ice out of the region and into adjacent waters. But the oscillation has weakened in recent years, and yet the melting continued and even accelerated.

ìSomething has fundamentally changed here, and the best answer is warming,î said Mark Serreze, another researcher at the snow and ice data center.

Sea ice records in the Arctic are sketchy before 1978. Since satellite observations began in earnest, researchers said Arctic ice has been retreating at a rate of more than 8 percent per decade.

And, they suspect, the melting may only contribute to even higher arctic temperatures in the future. Thatís because the bright white ice tends to reflect more of the sunís radiation. With more of the dark ocean exposed, the seawater tends to absorb more heat and reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into space.

The researchers used satellite data from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Defense Department, as well as data from Canadian satellites and weather observatories.

The Colorado institute led the study that also involved two NASA laboratories, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington.

Posted by loni on 09/30 at 11:23 AM
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Senate OKs $4 billion to fight bird flu

Health officials fear virus will mutate and trigger a worldwide outbreak

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to provide $4 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stockpile anti-flu medicine to protect people against bird flu and prepare for a potential outbreak.

By voice vote, senators agreed to tack the proposal onto next yearís $440 billion defense spending bill. The Senate still must approve the overall defense bill, and a vote is expected next week. Then, the Senate must work out a final version with the House, which did not include money for bird flu preparedness in its defense bill.

In recent weeks, the United States has stepped up preparations in case the virus ó which has already killed or led to the slaughter of millions of birds in Asia and Europe ó sparks an influenza pandemic.

The virus has killed just 60 people thus far, largely because it has not been known to spread easily from person to person. If that changes ó and flu viruses mutate regularly ó global health officials warn it could trigger a deadly worldwide outbreak that could kill millions of people.

The vote was a victory for Democrats, who sponsored the measure. They feared the U.S. was not ready for a possible outbreak, and pressed their concerns in speeches in which they said the bird flu one of the United Statesí greatest threats.

ìIf we have learned anything from the recent disasters on the Gulf Coast, it is that we must confidently prepare for disasters before they strike so that we are not left picking up the pieces,î said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who sponsored the measure.

About $3 billion of the Senate-approved money would be used to buy the anti-flu drug Tamiflu.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has called for a Tamiflu stockpile to treat 20 million people, yet there are only enough pills on hand to treat a few million.

The rest of the money would be used to detect and contain the avian flu around the world, provide grants to local and state health departments, and educate the public.

Posted by loni on 09/30 at 11:19 AM
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As Red Cross’ coffers fill, critics question efficiency

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/30/05
After Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of storm victims into metro Atlanta, Krista Brewer did something she had wanted to do for years: She volunteered with the American Red Cross.

“I’ll never do it again,” she said. “It was the most disorganized thing I’d ever seen.”

Brewer and other volunteers who helped the Red Cross care for 39,000 displaced families in Georgia describe an agency where no one seemed in charge at shelters and where rules for storm victims changed daily.

Their accounts raise questions about the agency’s effectiveness as it nears the halfway point in a national campaign to raise $2 billion to meet emergency needs of hurricane survivors, an amount equal to what all charities received after Sept. 11, 2001, and by far the Red Cross’ most ambitious fund-raising goal.

A month after one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history, the Red Cross finds itself scrutinized more intensely than at any time since its response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington four years ago, after which the agency’s president resigned.

In responding to the hurricane, the Red Cross ó the nation’s most prominent domestic relief agency, founded in 1881 by Civil War nurse Clara Barton ó says it has given $521 million in emergency assistance to 530,000 families, marshaled a massive volunteer force to run more than 1,000 shelters and housed more than 300,000 people in hotels in 48 states.

‘Going to be some bumps’

But critics complain storm victims receive busy signals when calling a toll-free number for emergency assistance. Others say the agency was slow to open shelters in hard-hit communities, particularly black communities. They also are urging an agency historically focused on short-term relief to share contributions with organizations working on long-term reconstruction.

Responding to these and other criticisms, including accusations of fraud at several service centers in Atlanta and elsewhere, the Red Cross says it is overwhelmed by callers and regrets the busy signals. It says poor conditions on the Gulf Coast and the sheer number of people in need ó not race ó explain why it has taken time to provide service in some areas.

“We are a volunteer-driven organization,” said Renita Hosler, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Washington. “The work that we do is done by individuals who are willing to leave their families and loved ones.”

She acknowledged that “there are going to be some bumps along the way” but said the agency has raced to meet the needs of about 1 million people scattered across several states.

As of Wednesday, the Red Cross had received $977 million of $1.5 billion in hurricane-relief donations, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. That works out to 67 cents of every dollar donated by individuals, corporations and foundations.

Critics say it makes little sense for an agency that provides short-term relief to receive such a large share when the most pressing needs on the Gulf Coast are long term, such as rebuilding homes and providing job training and mental health counseling.

Smaller nonprofits have had a tough time raising money for the less-glamorous development and rebuilding work, said Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington.

Some experts in charitable giving have urged the Red Cross to share money with organizations involved in long-term work. The agency’s president, Marsha J. Evans, dismissed that idea a few days ago, telling Palmer’s newspaper that “we’re just not in a position to be able to do that, given the fact that we have not even begun to reach, even remotely reach, the goal that we’ve set.”

Increased scrutiny

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Red Cross spokeswoman Hosler said, the Red Cross funneled some money to organizations that provided mental health services and help for people burdened by onerous medical bills.

The scrutiny accompanying the Red Cross’ response to Hurricane Katrina mirrors questions that arose after previous major disasters. After the 1989 earthquake in California, for instance, some officials criticized the Red Cross for its plan to spend donations earmarked for earthquake relief on other projects.

That happened after Sept. 11, 2001, too, when the public filled Red Cross coffers with $1 billion. The New York attorney general and others expressed outrage at a Red Cross plan to spend some 9/11 contributions to prepare a response to a future attack ó by freezing blood to treat future victims, for example.

The agency reversed course, and its president resigned.

This time, the Red Cross says, donations meant for Hurricane Katrina relief will be spent for that purpose, but tension has followed the agency’s response from the earliest days after the hurricane.

Dana James, a real estate investor who spent 14 years investigating Medicare fraud, spent a week and a half volunteering with the Red Cross.

Lack of leadership cited

“It’s a fair point to say they were overwhelmed, but they did not have enough people who were part of a leadership structure,” said James, who hopes to continue volunteering with the agency. “They would have a system in place one day and then change it the next.”

Some also have worried that money flowing through the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina wound up in the hands of people posing as storm victims. The Red Cross says it takes steps to prevent fraud, by asking for identification, for example, but experts say no system is foolproof and that a thorough screening of each applicant would lengthen waits that already are frustratingly long.

DeKalb County’s chief executive, Vernon Jones, asked the Red Cross to leave a one-stop service center on Panola Road, citing “unwieldy and chaotic operations” that were a disgrace. A Red Cross spokesman, Bill Reynolds, said the agency left after DeKalb made “inappropriate requests” for money that “we did not feel was a good use of the donated dollar.”

Still others like Mary Parks, a volunteer who spent several days at a Red Cross service center in Cobb County, give the Red Cross high marks for its work in confronting such a massive problem as Hurricane Katrina.

“I think they did a good job,” she said. “They did the best job they could, given the scope.”

Posted by loni on 09/30 at 11:11 AM
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Woman pleads guilty to molesting 8-year-old

I found this quite disturbing but then again they say she is disturbed also....

Connecticut secretary admits sexual contact with boy, faces prison term
Updated: 2:38 p.m. ET Sept. 19, 2005

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A 30-year-old woman who believed she was in a ìfantasy relationshipî with her daughterís 8-year-old playmate admitted having repeated sexual contact with the boy and accepted a plea deal Monday that likely will send her to prison for six years.

Tammy Imre pleaded guilty to two counts of risk of injury to a minor, a reduced charge that the boyís family accepted to spare both children time on the witness stand.

Imre, a secretary, was arrested in November on sexual assault charges after the boyís mother found a letter that Imre wrote.

In the letter, police said, Imre told the boy that she didnít ìwant anyone but you. Now tomorrow itís supposed to rain, you can come over we can (you know what). Love ya! I want you!î

Imre admitted engaging in sexual acts with the boy but said the kissing and fondling stopped short of sexual intercourse. The two were in bed together naked at least once, she admitted Monday.

Imre quietly changed her plea to guilty and admitted the facts in the case. Her mother and brother were in court.

State social workers have custody of Imreís daughter, who told police she saw her mother and the boy doing ìdisgustingî things.

ìThis was a big step forward for the family,î said George Ganim, the attorney for the boyís family.

ëFantasy relationshipí
Defense attorney Donald Papcsy said Imre suffers from a mental problem that made it hard for her to know that what she did was wrong.

ìShe really believed she was in a fantasy relationship,î Papcsy said.

Imre will be required to register as a sex offender after she is sentenced Nov. 4. The plea deal calls for a 12-year sentence suspended after six years. With an early release and credit for time served, she could be out of prison in four years, Papcsy said.

Prosecutor Cornelius Kelly acknowledged Imre had mental problems but said he had not seen the psychiatristís report and said the likelihood of an insanity defense was not a factor in his decision to accept a plea.

Posted by loni on 09/29 at 02:56 PM
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Please Georgie, don’t open that can of “Whoop Ass” on us!!


Posted by SPN on 09/29 at 02:13 PM
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Federal Judge, Civil Rights Lawyer, Constance Baker Motley Dies
Federal Judge, Civil Rights Lawyer Dies
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

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NEW YORK - When she was 15, Constance Baker Motley was turned away from a public beach because she was black. It was only then _ even though her mother was active in the NAACP _ that the teenager really became interested in civil rights.

She went to law school and found herself fighting racism in landmark segregation cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Motley also broke barriers herself: She was the first black woman elected to the New York state Senate and the first black woman appointed to the federal bench.

Motley, who would have celebrated her 40th anniversary on the bench next year, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at NYU Downtown Hospital, said her son, Joel Motley III. She was 84.

Posted by SPN on 09/29 at 12:23 PM
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Does having GOD on the side of a country make it a better country?  Some say, “No”.

It certainly makes the country worse when it chooses religion edicts over common sense and rational thought.  Of, course that just my opinion.  I’m not expert either way.,,1-2-1798944-2,00.html
Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Posted by SPN on 09/29 at 11:06 AM
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Bill Bennett Says: Abort Black Babies to Reduce Crime

I always knew that the white right didn’t really care about abortion unless it meant their children.

by susanhu
Wed Sep 28th, 2005 at 09:07:24 PM EDT

Bill Bennett—Reagan’s former Secretary of Education—declared on his satellite radio show today that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

Bennett was discussing the decline in the crime rate—apparently inspired by “the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.” (Media Matters)

Addressing a caller’s suggestion that the “lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years” would be enough to preserve Social Security’s solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such “far-reaching, extensive extrapolations.”

[Bennett instead declared] that if “you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies “would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do,” then added again, “but the crime rate would go down.”

Listen to the actual audio—at the risk of your own sanity. MM also has a transcript.

Media Matters reports that “Bill Bennett’s Morning in America airs on approximately 115 radio stations with an estimated weekly audience of 1.25 million listeners.” (Thanks to Keith Olbermann for first alerting me to this story, and to Media Matters for its usual, impeccable work in fact-checking the news.)

Bennett’s show is run through Salem Radio Network (SRN): “SRN is a full-service satellite radio network based in Irving, Texas. We serve Christian-formatted and general market news/talk stations through affiliate partnerships.” SRN’s phone number is 972-831-1920. Ask for Charles Mefferd, Operations Manager. The new/existing sales numbers are 972-402-8800 and Fax:972-402-8200. And, use the network’s online contact form to send them a message. 

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/29 at 12:16 AM
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Republican congressman, Tom DeLay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe

Ahh forget about it.  I’m sure he didn’t mean to loot the federal government.  The money was there just WAITING to be found.

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, looks on during ...

WASHINGTON - A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

DeLay, 58, was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay’s national political committee.

Posted by SPN on 09/28 at 02:15 PM
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Giant Squid Photographed for First Time


Associated Press Writer

OKYO ó The giant squid can be found in books and in myths, but for the first time, a team of Japanese scientists has captured on film one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep sea in its natural habitat.

The team led by Tsunemi Kubodera, from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, tracked the 26-foot long Architeuthis as it attacked prey nearly 3,000 feet deep off the coast of Japan’s Bonin islands.

“We believe this is the first time a grown giant squid has been captured on camera in its natural habitat,” said Kyoichi Mori, a marine researcher who co-authored a piece in Wednesday’s issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

The camera was operated by remote control during research at the end of October 2004, Mori told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Mori said the giant squid, purplish red like its smaller brethren, attacked its quarry aggressively, calling into question the image of the animal as lethargic and slow moving.


“Contrary to belief that the giant squid is relatively inactive, the squid we captured on film actively used its enormous tentacles to go after prey,” Mori said.

“It went after some bait that we had on the end of the camera and became stuck, and left behind a tentacle” about six yards long, Mori said.

Kubodera, also reached by the AP, said researchers ran DNA tests on the tentacle and found it matched those of other giant squids found around Japan.

“But other sightings were of smaller, or very injured squids washed toward the shore ó or of parts of a giant squid,” Kubodera said. “This is the first time a full-grown, healthy squid has been sighted in its natural environment in deep water.”

Kubodera said the giant squid’s tentacle would not grow back, but the squid’s life was not in danger.

Jim Barry, a marine biologist at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, has searched for giant squid on his own expeditions without luck.

“It’s the holy grail of deep sea animals,” he said. “It’s one that we have never seen alive, and now someone has video of one.”

New Zealand’s leading authority on the giant squid, marine biologist Steve O’Shea, praised the Japanese team’s feat.

“Through sheer ... determination the guy has gone on and done it,” said O’Shea, chief marine scientist at the Auckland University of Technology, who is not linked to the Japanese research.

O’Shea said he hopes to capture juvenile giant squid and grow them in captivity. He captured 17 of them five years ago but they died in captivity.

“Our reaction is one of tremendous relief that the so-called ... race (to film the giant squid) is over ... because the animal has consumed the last eight or nine years of my life,” O’Shea said of the film.

Giant squid have long attracted human fascination, appearing in myths of the ancient Greeks, as well as Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Scientific interest in the animals has surged in recent years as more specimens have been caught in commercial fishing nets or found washed up on shores.

Kubodera would make no claims about the scientific significance of his team’s work.

“As for the impact our discovery will have on marine research, I’ll leave to other researchers to decide,” he said.

Other biologists saidi they expected the video would provide insight on the animal’s behavior underwater.

“Nobody has been able to observe a large giant squid where it lives,” said Randy Kochevar, a deep sea biologist also with the Monterey aquarium. “There are people who said it would never be done.”

Posted by loni on 09/28 at 09:03 AM
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Steroids are good for the body.


Visit the site named in the picture to see more of this girly man.

Posted by SPN on 09/27 at 06:15 PM
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Help Georgie avoid the big mean spheres!

Posted by SPN on 09/27 at 02:03 PM
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I know that you are a wimp.

So don’t go to the following site if you are easily offended by freedom of speech and criticism of the US government.

Oh yeah, the word “asshole” is used alot too.  If you like assholes, visit the site.  If not, then visit it anyway.

Posted by SPN on 09/27 at 01:11 PM
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